At the beginning of the 20th century, when 12-string guitars first appeared in the United States, the instruments were considered novelty items, curiosities, freaks of guitar making that were beneath the dignity of serious companies like Martin and Gibson. But when Blind Willie McTell picked up a Stella 12-string in 1927, and then basically never put it down, the instrument was suddenly legitimized.
A folk singer named Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly, had actually made the Stella 12-string his own earlier, in 1912, but Lead Belly had so many scrapes with the law and spent so much time in prison that he wouldn’t get a chance to popularize the ringing tones of the 12-string until the 1930s and ’40s. Even then, his biggest hit, “Good Night Irene,” came after his death in 1949.
Pete Seeger and the Weavers kept the 12-string sound alive until the 1960s, when groups like the Rooftop Singers (“Walk Right In”) made it the go-to instrument on the commercial folk scene. Gibson was ready with its B-45 in 1961 and its B-25 in 1962, while Martin got on board a bit later with its D12-20 in 1964 and D12-35 in 1965.
The loudest noise in 12-strings, though, was made by Rickenbacker, thanks to a custom, one-of-a-kind 12-string version of its 325 hollowbody electric guitar made in 1964 for John Lennon of the Beatles. George Harrison also became a Rickenbacker acolyte, playing his Rickenbacker 360 12-string on songs like "A Hard Day’s Night."
One musician who liked that sound a lot was Roger McGuinn of the Byrds. Reportedly, he bought a 360-12 after seeing the movie named after of the famous Beatles song. He went on to play a 12-string on one of the Byrds’ biggest hits, “Turn Turn Turn.”
By the late 1970s, newer companies like Taylor made acoustic 12-strings part of their lines. Once again, a key musician would cement the instrument's sound in our collective soundtrack. In this case it was Neil Young who, while vacationing in Florida, purchased a Taylor 12-string, an 855, at a local music shop. Young liked his 855 so much he ordered a second, and Taylor subsequently gained widespread recognition when Young’s 855 figured prominently in his concert film, "Rust Never Sleeps."
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Gospel group bringing back the oldiesGwdToday, September 22nd
Dettman plays several different stringed instruments, including six-string and 12-string guitar and mandolin, which are joined by the voices of Patti Riley, Melissa Ponder and Matt Chapman. Dettman and Riley both have professional music backgrounds...Read more
Playing the bluesDaventry Express, September 21st
Between them, Tommy Allen (on vocals, Resonator guitar, 12-string guitar, mandolin and foot percussion) and Johnny Hewitt (on vocals and harmonica) have enough raw energy to captivate any audience, and they sure know how to boogie. The main event ...Read more
Odds Bodkin brings stories, music to Round HillGreenwich Post, September 20th
Underscored by a dance rhythm on 12-string guitar, this Irish tale tells how an ancient Irish hero and his wife outwit a big man who's come from a foreign land and isn't particularly smart or friendly. It includes a sing-along tune with fast clapping...Read more
Blankenship to perform at Abundant Life Fellowship services in Red BluffRed Bluff Daily News, September 20th
The Rev. Leroy Blankenship will be at Abundant Life Fellowship for three services only at 6 p.m. Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Blankenship is an accomplished musician and songwriter, playing 12-string guitar and piano. His songs range from classic to ...Read more
Review of "Street" (artistic film)The Creightonian, September 18th
The artist then slowed down this edited section, creating an hour-long video, which is set to the rhythmic sound of a 12-string guitar. The music was composed by Thurston Moore, the co-founder of Sonic Youth, and its droning sounds add to the slow...Read more
“Old Familiar Chime”: A medley of guitar stylesMinnesota Daily, September 18th
The difference in inspiration comes from both age and personal preference, as 26-year-old Turnquist didn't discover Fahey's records until after he had already developed his own 12-string guitar style. “I think it's pretty cool to have a group of modern...Read more
Rules of the Waterway: THE YOUNG MAN AND THE SEAValley morning Star, September 18th
He played not just a 6-string guitar but a 12-string guitar because he loved the sound of it and he knew that the sound of that 12 string would make his music sound better for his fans. This was how he thought. He became a boat captain because he loved...Read more
My Guitar: Harry Martin's hard-working Takamine 360CBC.ca, September 14th
"I use something that's called a stereo chorus when I plug it in electronically, and that gives it a little more body ... it actually sounds like a 12-string guitar, which is something I like." Martin recalls at a sound check, the technician, who didn...Read more